Monday, April 30, 2012

Food for Missionaries & Education - April 20th

Subject: Prep. Food for missionaries & Education
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 12:01:36 -0600


After preparing a luncheon for 24 missionaries and a breakfast this morning for 14, I have an idea Everett of what you must go through to feed your entire ward, except you are on a large scale and we have been on a smaller scale and you are more often.  But I've enjoyed preparing meals for the young elders to include the mission president and his wife.  This is something we will be doing every 6 weeks. Obnoxious birds are flying over the house.  They are twice the size of seagulls, have a long beak, and a very loud grating squawk.  Wherever they fly, they squawk.  They fly every day over our compound commencing at 5:30 am, sporadically during the day, and again at dusk.  I understand they are a protected species otherwise I think they would be a good target to shoot just like duck hunters back home.

It's surprising how close you can get to wild animals in the animal parks.  We have been real close to giraffes, zebras, elephants, warthogs, the African buffalo, and a deer-like animal named a bontebok with a white face and and white legs below the knees.  Of course, you are not allowed out of your car.  I saw elephants coming toward us along a trail leading toward the waterhole.  So I parked our car about 8' from the trail.  They passed right by in front of the car.  The fact that we were there didn't even phase them let alone cause them to circle away from the car.  We have enjoyed the animal parks and have visited three so far.

In one park, we were driving slowly along a dirt road and came face to face with a giraffe.  We stopped a few feet in front of him and gaped at him.  He was huge.  We kept thinking he would move off the road into the bush, but no, he was going no where.  He just stood there.  So after about 5 minute standoff, we drove around him and went on our way.  The giraffes are magnificent creatures.   There seem to be 2 species - tall and taller; the tall being slightly brown and the taller being lighter in color.  The same with zebras.

It seems almost every neighbor in this compound has a small terrior dog that is constantly barking.  When I walk around the compound in the mornings, about a 220 yard lap, 4 to a mile, I cause the dogs to bark. So  my walk is an interesting one accompanied to the sound of barking dogs on the ground and squawking birds flying over head.

The Afrikaan whites have some interesting ways of saying things. For example: We went to a nursery to get flowers to plant by our front door.  The owner came up to me and said, "Can I help you with anything?' I said no, we are just browsing.  "If you need anything, just give a shout."he said. I thought that was quite unique and very "British-like."  I still have trouble understanding some of the white Afrikaans with real thick accents when speaking on the telephone.  True, they are speaking English, but the accent is so strong, it's really hard to understand them.  I do better when we talk face to face.  The same applies to some of the Blacks.  I went into a store the other day and asked a Black man where I would find reams of paper for a computer.  and I couldn't understand one word he was saying. He probably saw the confused look on my face and led me to the paper.

Last night as we were watching a concert performance by "ABBA", I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me.  He was a retired school teacher of 30 years and had retired a year ago.  He told me some pretty bizarre high school stories.  He taught Black students who lived in the black townships and shanties. He said he had taught 9 classes a day with a class room average of 58 students per class. It was a challenge and even more so with the invasion of gangsters into the school.  School security police plus teachers had to unite to repel the gangsters and chain all the doors leading into the school.  School fights were a daily occurrence to include in the classrooms.  His knees were rather shot from his rugby playing days so he used a cane to help him get around.  When the students entered the classroom they were extremely noisy and boisterous.  To get their attention and shut them up he would take his cane and strongly wham it on the desks of seated students.  He said it was tough and you had to be tough.  He said some teachers lasted only one day, some one hour, and others not even one minute. There was a constant exodus of teachers, the Board of Education did nothing, the Department of Education did nothing,  the school system is chaotic, and there are some in the population who cannot read or write.

150,000 students needed to be bused to and from school.  150,000 have to walk.  There is no transportation available to resolve the problems, there are not enough schools, classrooms, buildings, teachers, equipment, supplies and money.  The government is lacking in support and cannot resolve all the existing problems, there are just too many.  This teacher survived 30 years of teaching high school because he was determined, cared about students and their education, was tough, committed, understood the mentality of these students, families, and communities, and could stand up to problems and their challenges.  In other words, he had double thick skin and a burning desire to endure to the end.

He wanted to teach shop, became qualified, and added shop classes to his his exisiting schedule. He taught technology, theory and skills associated with woodwork construction. He said he never had a single student fail to graduate from high school in the industrial arts program.  His wood shop classes averaged 22 students per class.   Students would get behind in their work. He would motivate and encourage them.  When some failed to show up in his classes he would go on his motor cycle to their homes and get them to show up, even bring them to school on his motor cycle.

At the end of the school year in this education system, which is similar to the British system we had in Samoa, students have to take a big exam in all their classes which is a summation of what each course covered the entire year.  There are 7 classes.  To "matric" or graduate from high school, you have to have passing marks in all 7 classes.  If you are shy by 2 points in passing one class, but you pass the other 6, you fail the entire school year and have to repeat all 7 classes again and your entire senior school year.  Then you would need to pass all 7 classes at the end of the next year in order to graduate or "matric" from high school.

To make "borderline" students complete the required work in industrial arts so they could qualify to take the upcoming "Matric" exam, he would go to their homes, pick them up on his motor cycle at dusk, take them to his wood shop at school, and work with then until 3 a.m in the morning.  He would make them complete their mandatory projects and help them with their final preparation for the big industrial arts exam culminating the school year.  It was this dedication and commitment to student success, that not one of his students ever failed the "matric" exam in 25 years.   I marveled at what this teacher shared with me.  What an outstanding  teacher!

Well, so much for my education treatise today.  Have a happy day.

Elder S.

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